Drafted For Military Duty

Craig Miller, a medical videographer at Wilford Hall Medical Center on the grounds of the Lackland Air Force Base just outside of San Antonio, TX, has a demanding yet noble job: to capture the sights and sounds of surgeries for military hospital instructional videos. Working closely with some of the U.S. military's most distinguished surgeons in the Medical Multimedia Flagship, Miller daily records both audio and video of the latest surgical processes, which is then compiled to train others stationed in Air Force hospitals worldwide.

Miller insists that for the longest time, his department possessed a very capable video system, yet the quality of his audio-gathering tools was lacking to the point of his perpetual embarrassment. "I've had wireless audio equipment that just wasn't reliable, and would have to make 'workarounds' for things just to function," Miller revealed. "I literally had a junk drawer full of wireless mics that we used. It was like using a 500 horsepower dragster in the Avid system, and then my audio system was like using training wheels on it. Doctors would ask, 'What do you mean you have a $164,000 Avid system? And the audio sounds like this?' I finally said, 'That's it, I'm not going to skimp anymore.'"

After doing a bit of research, Miller discovered Lectrosonics wireless audio systems. "I called Lectrosonics to find out why their equipment has such a good reputation and learned a lot about their stellar manufacturing process," he recalled. Soon after, he purchased a bevy of aluminum-housed Lectrosonics products: the UCR201 compact UHF receiver, UCR411A Digital Hybrid Wireless compact receiver, UM200C wideband UHF belt-pack transmitter, and the UM400 Digital Hybrid Wireless UHF belt-pack transmitter, which, Miller said, is still on back order. He can hardly wait to get it. "I have the other models, but the UM400 is going to be my baby. Now I have equipment that's better than what 'combat camera' gets; it's so rugged that it could go off to war, if need be."

Along with his new Lectrosonics wireless microphone equipment, Miller's audio and video rig features Canon GL1-S cameras for location video recording, dual Avid Media Composer systems, and an analog Mackie mixer for his productions' dialogue-only audio tracks. "We'll incorporate the Lectrosonics equipment into our in-house recording setup, too," Miller insisted. "I'm going to use it for everything."

Miller's work on surgical videos places him in demanding environments where there simply isn't a second take. "The quality of the audio is very important in the narrative aspect when the doctor puts the video together," Miller explained. "Before, I would have to use the equalizer built into the Avid system to get the sound to an acceptable level. But even then, it really never got there. It never had the quietness or dynamic range that the Lectrosonics equipment provides. Now, the people we record will be more confident. They are rarely speakers and often shy away from the microphone. When I tell them that this is a piece of equipment that will get their message across, which, in turn, teaches them to save lives over in the war, they're going to feel a lot more confident and sound a whole lot better."